New Baltimore Declines Joint Fire Operations Partnership With Chesterfield Township
The township fire department will start receiving additional funding in 2015 after collections on the recently passed fire millage start in December 2014, according to the fire chief.
And, one recently discussed possibility was promising for Chesterfield but doesn't seem likely to come to fruition in the near future.
Township Fire Chief Doug Charbonneau hoped to enter a joint-operating venture with New Baltimore Fire Department that would pool resources, such as paid-on-call firefighters and fire inspectors. However, New Baltimore rejected the offer because it didn't see the city's benefit.
“You’re seeing more and more joint services around the state of Michigan,” Charbonneau said Thursday. “We’re not duplicating anything here. ... The concept has been around its been used all over the country; it's a concept that I think we all have to look at."
After meetings with New Baltimore Fire Chief Ken Lawfield, New Baltimore Mayor Larry Smith and Chesterfield Supervisor Michael Lovelock this winter regarding a potential partnership, Charbonneau was hopeful.
He said the deal would have meant firefighters would retain their ranks and expand their work ability and training options if desired.
“It’s not a matter of taking over," he said. "It’s a matter of sharing resources.”
However, Lawfield said Thursday, after much consideration, he doesn't think a joint venture between the departments is ideal.
“We here in New Baltimore decided that wasn’t advantageous for the fire department or the residents at this time," Lawfield said. "We were in talks with Chesterfield Township but decided we weren’t going forward with it. ... There were advantages for additional resources for Chesterfield but not necessarily for us."
He added it may be something to reconsider in the future.
"It’s always a possibility, but at this time, we chose not to continue on with talks," he said.
New millage collection starts in Dec. '14
A majority of township residents approved the township fire department's tax renewal and increase in November. However, the increased funding doesn't start flowing into the department until 2015, with collections beginning in December 2014, Charbonneau said.
”We won’t actually see that money until the 2015 fiscal year," he said.
In the meantime, the department has been able to transfer appropriate money from the dwindling operations fund to the equipment fund, where there's a surplus. That's allowed under a new interpretation of the millage that allows expenses like vehicle maintenance—which costs roughly $50,000 annually—to be drawn from the equipment fund.
“So that’s going to help offset some of the red ink over the next two years over in the operations fund," the chief said.
The department will continue to operate its three stations with the minimum staffing of two firefighters until the increased tax revenue takes effect. It's also saving money in other ways, such as switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and using cheaper cleaning products, he said.